Choosing Strings for Your Ukulele
While there are many string types available (all of which are similar to the type used on classical guitars), let’s focus on four of the major string materials: nylon, fluorocarbon, Nylgut (a proprietary material used by Aquila), and wound (usually metal over nylon). Each of these types of strings can vary in terms of thickness, tension, brightness, sustain, attack, and feel.
Nylon, which is used by D’Addario and other makers, is the least dense of the materials, therefore the strings have a larger diameter. They tend to have a warmer tone and a smooth feel.
Fluorocarbon, which is used by Worth strings, is the most dense (other than wound metal), so they are the smallest in diameter. They have a smooth feel and, to my ear, a very balanced tone.
Nylgut is a medium-density material, and Aquila’s standard set is designed for somewhat high tension (over 20 percent more tension than a standard nylon set from D’Addario). This tension, combined with the properties of Nylgut, tends to deliver a brighter tone. These strings have a somewhat “gritty” feel, which some players prefer.
Wound strings are often used for a low-G tuning, although an unwound version is available in both Nylgut and fluorocarbon. And, just to confuse matters, some people use a wound C string. The wound strings have smaller diameters than their unwound counterparts, and they tend to have more volume, presence, and sustain. As a result, they don’t have as much tonal balance with the other strings.
As I’ve said, strings are a matter of personal preference, but I would trust the opinion of your ukulele builder/maker when deciding what kind of strings to use. It is likely that they have done extensive string experimentation on their instruments and have selected the strings that they believe perform the best.
Excerpted from Ukulele issue 2
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